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Target 3: Supporters Rally In Favor Of WFISD Bond

Early voting in the May election starts on Monday and one of the biggest issues on the ballot is the Wichita Falls Independent School District's $125 million bond proposal.
Early voting in the May election starts on Monday and one of the biggest issues on the ballot is the Wichita Falls Independent School District's $125 million bond proposal.

Whether you want to bond and build or you're ok with voting no, both sides are pretty passionate about the issue.

As your local election headquarters, we talked to both sides to learn more about their stance on the issue and what you need to know before heading to the polls.

While supporters agree the bond is not 100% of what everyone wants, they say it's the best compromise for the voters, the community and especially the children.

You've seen their signs all around town, supporters asking voters to bond and build in favor of the Wichita Falls ID's bond and different groups and organizations rallying behind it.

For instance, during its annual banquet, the Wichita Falls Chamber of Commerce endorsed the bond.

Chamber President and CEO Henry Florsheim says the bond is needed.

"If we have facilities that are outdated, that are crumbling, that are just old; then that's not going to leave a very good impression on our community," Florsheim exclaims.

In addition, he says when it comes to the economic development of the city, potential business prospects always want to know where the best schools are located.

Florsheim says, "When we show them those schools and we do it every time somebody comes to visit, we know what kind of response we're going to get depending on what school we're going to show them."

Florsheim says the WFISD's bond would change that.

The construction of a new high school for Old High and Rider students in 10th through 12th grades at the Memorial Stadium complex with a capacity of 1,900 students would cost about $64 million.

Also, community members like Teresa Pontius Caves say it's time to go beyond tradition and look at the future of the district's students. 

"We haven't built high schools since 1960," Pontius Caves says. "This is 2014. It's time we address our secondary schools."

Pontius Caves was a member of WFISD's Community Facilities Action Team but she now heads the marketing effort for the Bond and Build, a group lobbying in support of the bond.

CFAT was charged with recommending bond options to the district's school board. 

Pontius Caves hopes the bitter rivalry between the Coyotes and the Raiders won't keep voters from voting yes.

It's not a rivalry if it's destructive and it tears up a bond issue so that we don't get schools in this town," Pontius Caves says. "We can honor that history but it's not about the buildings, it's about the people."

She says, "That's what makes Wichita Falls so absolutely wonderful is the people so I hope we can get passed that and we can look and see, ok this is about people and about kids and we're all going to come together."

Other organizations are also rallying in support of the bond. 

Gonzalo Robles, a member of the Hispanic Coalition, says the bond's 9th grade center is key because he says 9th grade is the key grade for the kids to finish.

Robles says if students don't finish the 9th grade, they are more likely to drop out.

The renovation and repurposing of McNiel Junior High as a 9th grade center would cost $2.3 million. 

"Here in the state of Texas, 59% of minority students that drop out in high school, most of them drop out in the 9th grade, so that is going to enable the district to concentrate their efforts in their 9th graders," Robles says.

He says the bond also gives parents the option of sending their kids to Hirschi High School which would remain a smaller school for 9th through 12 graders.

Renovations to Hirschi would total $10 million.

However, the construction of Career and Technical Education center is what is receiving the most support from the community.

The center would help prepare students for careers, industry certifications or for college.

Florsheim says the center is ideal because not every student is bound for college. 

The CTE center can help people learn vocational and technical skills that can help them get a job and in this community, a good paying job, tomorrow," Florsheim says. 

The CTE center's price tag is $24.2 million. 

It's a price supporters like Robles say is worth it. 

"We need to think about the future of our city, of Wichita Falls as a whole, and our youth," Robles says. "We need to put our differences aside and think about the students. What is best? If we want them to compete, we need to provide them with great facilities and great programs and that is what this bond gives to this community."

The bond also includes $4 million to address safety and security issues at all schools.

Renovations to Memorial Stadium would cost around $8.5 million , and $12 million dollars will be set aside to renovate and repurpose junior high facilities.

But like anything else, there are two sides to every issue.
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